As a major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a vibrant hub with plenty of choice when it comes to hotels.
By Katrina Lobley
Want to stay near tropical wildlife, relax around a stunning pool or feast on endless seafood? Cairns has a wide range of accommodation clustered around its picturesque waterfront that offers all this and more.
Hotel with a zoo on the side
It's easy to spot the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino near the cruise liner terminal facing Trinity Inlet – just look up to see the distinctive 20 metre (66 foot) high glass dome that houses both a zoo (complete with crocodiles and rainforest wallabies) and a ropes course up among the free-flying birdlife. The complex also includes the 128-room Pullman Reef Hotel, which in 2016 refurbished its signature restaurant, Tamarind, as well as the lobby. Splash out on the Pullman Suite to soak in a freestanding tub.
Rooms with a view
Wedged at the southern end of the vibrant Cairns Esplanade is the 255-room, triangular-shaped Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina Cairns. Guests at this luxury hotel, which boasts a massive, sophisticated executive lounge, can enjoy views of the Coral Sea, yachts bobbing in the Marlin Marina, the Cairns low-rise cityscape, lush gardens or the sparkling centrepiece pool. Stroll down the Marina Dining Promenade to choose from a variety of waterfront restaurants.
Splash around in a lagoon pool
The Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort is in the heart of the city, a block from the waterfront, but channels a laid-back resort vibe thanks to a stunning lagoon-style pool, tropical gardens and rooms that are light and bright with a coastal-themed palette. Swim up to the pool bar to order a bite – the menu ranges from burgers and soft tacos to beer battered fish and chips. The in-house Mizuna restaurant features dishes such as Mexican-spiced chicken breast salad, and salmon with a grilled watermelon and cucumber salad. They are favourites of Novotel's wellness ambassador, champion surfer Sally Fitzgibbons.
Feast on endless seafood
Across the street from the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is another hotel in the Pullman stable. With 321 rooms, the Pullman Cairns International is the city's largest five-star hotel. Coco's Restaurant, near the lobby, is famous for its nightly seafood buffet. Seafood also stars in the three hour Sunday lunches. High tea is also a drawcard, with add-ons such as a miniature chocolate fondue with strawberries and marshmallow. Enjoy views over the nearby mountains from the pool, which features an island, walkway and jacuzzi.
Check in and feel at home
The 230-room Mantra Trilogy offers not only traditional hotel rooms but apartments with kitchens, laundries and up to three bedrooms for that home-away-from-home feel. If you don’t feel like cooking, dine at the Mediterranean-themed Villa Romana, which also offers room service. Swan around the hotel's lagoon pool with its ocean views or maintain your fitness by hitting the 25 metre (82 foot) lap pool. On a clear day it's possible to see Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Boats depart regularly for the island from the nearby Reef Fleet Terminal.
You had me at chocolate chip cookie
The curvaceous DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cairns overlooks all the action of the Cairns Esplanade – a drawcard that includes a stunning swimming lagoon complete with photogenic marine sculptures. Once you have wolfed down the famous chocolate chip welcome cookie, unpack and start exploring. There's Mediterranean-inspired cuisine on the menu at The Atrium near the hotel's rainforest-styled atrium, an outdoor pool and a deep water barramundi pond.
Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort
With views of Cairns’ remarkable coastline, Riley, A Crystalbrook Collection Resort, is the epitome of seaside luxury. This five-star resort has everything you need to have an indulgent holiday in Tropical North Queensland, from the Luxury Eléme Day Spa to the expansive swimming lagoon. The resort has 311 rooms and suites, each fit with contemporary design and amenities. Treat your tastebuds at Paper Crane, a modern Asian fusion restaurant, or head up to Rocco, a Mediterranean-inspired rooftop bar set 12 floors above sea level. Guests even have access to a manmade beach and secluded cabanas.
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